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The (Ugly) Truth about Feedback

“Would you like some feedback?”

For most of us, that’s like being asked:

“Would you like some ketchup on your ice cream?”

The answer is NOOOOO!

Fortunately, there is a better way of structuring a performance conversation. Read on to find out how.

The Automatic Reaction

Why are we allergic to feedback? Because we often perceive feedback as (well-intentioned) criticism, which triggers the same kind of response in the brain as physical pain.

No surprise that the most common reactions to feedback are denial, defense, and dislike.

We first deny the reality of the situation: “The project is not really that far behind schedule. We’ll make up the lost time by next month.”

We then defend ourselves: “Anyway, it’s the customer’s fault. He keeps asking for changes.”

And finally we dislike the person giving feedback: “I’d like to see her try to manage the customer’s expectations.”

The Alternative: Use GROW to Structure the Dialogue

Feedback is a one-sided judgment about past performance. Exploratory dialogue, on the other hand, engages the other person in a mutual search for solutions.

GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Wrap-Up) is a structured process that uses questions to find solutions. The aim is to help the other person identify and commit to actions for moving forward.

  • First agree on the goal for the conversation.
  • Then explore the current reality. Ask open questions to get the full picture of the situation—what’s working and what’s not.
  • Once you understand the situation, invite the other person to provide options for moving forward. As a coach, refrain from making suggestions yourself.
  • Wrap-up by obtaining a commitment from the other person on specific actions.

Image courtesy of la vaca vegetarian / CC BY-SA 2.0 

Mark Milotich is a facilitator and coach with over 20 years' experience developing leadership excellence and managing change in global organizations. His clients include Aleris, Atmel, Barry Callebaut, Capco, Credit Suisse, Daimler TSS, Deutsche Post/DHL, Deutsche Telekom, HETA, localsearch, Microsoft, Orange, Pfizer, Phonak, Schlumberger, Software AG, Swisscom, Swissmem, SPX, Stäubli, UBS, UEFA, and Zurich Insurance Group. Mark is a founding partner of Claxus GmbH.


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